The ABC Murders,” a three-part miniseries that aired last year on BBC and is now on Amazon Prime, is a case study in the creativity and/or annoyances that come from reinventing source material in an adaptation. I’m not much of an Agatha Christie historian, but writer Sarah Phelps’ previous adaptation of the mystery author’s work, 2015’s “And Then There Were None,” rates an 8.0 on IMDB compared to a 6.6 for this one. My mom is a big fan of David Suchet’s work in “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” (1989-2013, ITV), and she found the reinventions here to be strange, making John Malkovich’s turn essentially PINO – Poirot in Name Only.
Clue” (1985) is famous for being based on a board game yet somehow not being awful, and also for having alternate endings. Long before alternate endings were juicy bonus features on DVDs, and even longer before everyone stopped caring about bonus features – or DVDs for that matter – “Clue” featured three endings. If you saw it in the theater, you saw one of three revelations of distinct killer(s). Then for the VHS release (and any screening you watch now, such as Vudu’s current free-with-ads offering), the three endings are stitched together.
TNT found a nice way to ride the success of a series without forcing it beyond the natural end of its storyline. “The Alienist” – my No. 4 show of 2018 — became a critical and popular success a year ago, but it told a complete serial-murder mystery. That series is over, but TNT is continuing its Suspense Collection with “I Am the Night” (9 p.m. Eastern Mondays).
Glass,” the trilogy topper we didn’t know we needed, is a unique animal. It’s hard for me to put a finger on how I feel about it, as it is a very unconventional superhero film, choosing to focus on narrative rather than CGI battles. Today’s cinema is dominated by Marvel and DC blockbusters (most recently the CGI fest “Aquaman”), but writer-director M. Night Shyamalan grounds us in reality by keeping everything just believable enough.
Apriest, a singer and a vacuum salesman walk into a hotel … What sounds like the beginning of a good joke is the basis for writer-director Drew Goddard’s newest work, “Bad Times at the El Royale” (2018), set in 1969. Goddard (“Daredevil”) channels his inner Quentin Tarantino with a layered mystery of murder and deceit, dripping with style and intrigue. The El Royale hotel, which lies on the state line of California and Nevada, clearly has a history, and it’s almost a character itself.
Idon’t classify myself as a gamer, but video games are definitely still a part of my life. Having played through multiple “choose your own adventure”-style games, I was excited to give “Bandersnatch” (2018) a try. I have enjoyed nearly every episode of “Black Mirror,” so I was excited to dive in to this movie spinoff of the Netflix series.
These are the movies and TV shows I’m looking forward to in the new year:
When we say “the new Paul Feig movie,” something like “A Simple Favor,” now on home video, is not what we’d expect from the co-creator of “Freaks and Geeks” and the director of many subsequent comedies with heart. But, you know, it’s pretty cool that someone can have enough success to break out of the category we’ve put him in – even if we like his work in that category.
It has become comfortingly familiar at this point: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child take us – via their adventurous leads – to some corner of the Earth that still holds mysteries in the 21st century. Or that we can imagine still holds mysteries, if our knowledge of the place is sketchy enough that we can fool ourselves. The latest locale is southeastern Egypt in “The Pharaoh Key” (June 2018, hardcover), a novel that does its part to get the correct spelling of “pharaoh” back in the lexicon after the success of that darn horse.
Alot of movies could benefit from a viewer going in with no knowledge of what they’re about to see, but in the age of previews giving away everything, it’s hard to find an experience like that. Streaming services might be bringing it back though: A synopsis and a still image look intriguing, the service recommends it to you based on your viewing habits, it gets good ratings from others … so maybe you’ll give it a shot. Netflix’s “Cam” benefits from the Mystery Mine Ride approach.